Brandon Fields drained a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left in the game Thursday night to give the Wolf Pack a 73-70 home win over Eastern Washington in front 4,713 fans at Lawlor Events Center.
The win lifted Nevada, which is winless away from Reno, to 5-0 at home. However, Thursday’s non-conference clash was the Wolf Pack’s closest home game of the young season.
With the scoreboard deadlocked at 70-70, Fields ran the baseline and sprang free after a screen from teammate Luke Babbitt. He caught an Armon Johnson pass on the baseline, elevated and knocked down the game-winning trey.
“We owe it all to Brandon. We’d still be out there playing,” Babbitt said jokingly in the postgame interview session. “It was just a big shot, but that’s what we expect from him.”
The Wolf Pack (5-4) took its biggest lead of the game, 61-53 after Fields converted a 3-point play with 6:21 to go in the contest. Unfortunately for Nevada fans, their beloved Silver and Blue could not build on the advantage. Eastern Washington knotted the score at 66-66 when Kevin Winford dropped a 3-point bomb with 3:39 remaining in the game.
With 1:59 to go, Fields dropped in a reverse layup on the break for a 70-67 Nevada lead, setting the stage for game-tying 3-pointer from Benny Valentine 30 seconds later.
“That’s a good team. They have played a lot of people tough,” Babbitt said of Eastern Washington. “We knew they would be a good team, but they surprised with the good offense they have. They’re tricky to guard.”
Fields finished with 17 points in the win, but Babbitt was the offensive star Thursday night, pouring in a season-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also pulled down nine rebounds.
Mark Dunn, Winford and Glen Dean contributed 15, 14 and 13 points to Eastern Washington’s losing cause. Dean also chipped in 10 assists.
The Eagles (4-6) stayed in the game by consistently hitting shots. They finished 27-of-55 (49 percent) from the field, including 8-of-17 from 3-point land. Nevada shot a high percentage as well, 29-of-59 (49 percent).
“I wasn’t sure how we’d match up,” EWU coach Kirk Earlywine said. “It’s hard to evaluate athletic ability and quickness on video. You just run your offense and try to take advantage of what the defense gives you. I thought Glen Dean was able to be a bit of a problem for Nevada with his penetration. He played well for us. I thought he was the second-best player on the floor tonight after Babbitt.
“But that Babbitt kid, he’s a different cat. We’ve played against the top three scorers in the nation and Babbitt’s the best player we’ve played against. It’s not even close. That kid’s just terrific.”
Nevada led 37-35 at halftime, largely because of Babbitt’s big offensive show in the first half. The Galena high grad had 19 points in the first 20 minutes.
“I thought Luke carried us in the first half and most of the second half,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “Without his production in the first half, we would have been behind.”
Eastern Washington led 10-6 after a 15-foot jumper by Jeff Forbes at the 15:06 mark of the first half. Nevada responded with the next six points and forced an EWU timeout. The two teams traded buckets through the remainder of the first half.
Eastern Washington led 17-14 after Brandon Moore made 1-of-2 free throws with just under 11 minutes left before halftime. Neither team led by more than two through the rest of the initial half.
Tied at 35-35, Nevada got a driving scoop shot in traffic from Fields to take its two-point lead at the intermission.
In addition to solid nights from Babbitt and Fields, Johnson finished with 12 points and eight assists for Nevada.
The Wolf Pack wraps up its four-game home stand Saturday night against Wagner at 7:05 p.m.